Z

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Z
ISO basic Latin alphabet
Aa Bb Cc Dd Ee Ff Gg
Hh Ii Jj Kk Ll Mm Nn
Oo Pp Qq Rr Ss Tt Uu
Vv Ww Xx Yy Zz
Cursive.svg
Circle sheer blue 27.gif
Circle sheer blue 31.gif
Cursive script 'z' and capital 'Z'

Z (named zed /ˈzɛd/ or zee /ˈz/[1]) is the twenty-sixth and final letter of the ISO basic Latin alphabet.

Name and pronunciation[edit]

In most dialects of English, the letter's name is 'zed' /ˈzɛd/, reflecting its derivation from the Greek zeta, but in American English, its name is 'zee' /ˈz/, deriving from a late 17th century English dialectal form.[2]

Another English dialectal form is izzard /ˈɪzərd/. It dates from the mid-18th century and probably derives from Occitan izèda or the French ézed, whose reconstructed Latin form would be *idzēta,[1] perhaps a popular form with a prosthetic vowel.

Other languages spell the letter's name in a similar way: zeta in Italian, Spanish and Icelandic (no longer part of its alphabet but found in personal names), zäta in Swedish, zæt in Danish, zet in Dutch, Polish, Romanian and Czech, Zett in German (capitalised as noun), zett in Norwegian, zède in French, in Portuguese, and zét in Vietnamese. Several languages lacking /z/ as phoneme render it as /ts/~/dz/, e.g. zeta /tsetɑ/ or /tset/ in Finnish. In Standard Chinese pinyin the name of the letter Z is pronounced [tsɨ], although the English 'zed' and American English 'zee' have become very common.

History[edit]

Phoenician  
Zayin
Etruscan
Z
Greek
Zeta
PhoenicianZ-01.svg EtruscanZ-01.svg Zeta uc lc.svg

Semitic[edit]

The Semitic symbol was the seventh letter, named zayin which possibly meant "weapon". It represented either z as in English and French, or possibly more like /dz/ (as in Italian zeta, zero).

Greek[edit]

The Greek form of Z was a close copy of the I-shaped Phoenician symbol, and the Greek inscriptional form remained in this shape throughout ancient times. The Greeks called it zeta, a new name made in imitation of eta (η) and theta (θ).

In earlier Greek of Athens and Northwest Greece, the letter seems to have represented /dz/; in Attic, from the 4th century BC onwards, it seems to have been either /zd/ or a /dz/, and in fact there is no consensus concerning this issue. In other dialects, as Elean and Cretan, the symbol seems to have been used for sounds resembling the English voiced and voiceless th (IPA /ð/ and /θ/, respectively). In the common dialect (κοινη) that succeeded the older dialects, ζ became /z/, as it remains in modern Greek.

Etruscan[edit]

In Etruscan, Z may have represented /ts/.

Latin[edit]

In the 1st century BC, Z was introduced again at the end of the Latin alphabet to accurately represent the sound of the Greek zeta. The letter Z appeared only in Greek words, and is the only letter besides Y that the Romans took directly from Greek, rather than from Etruscan.

Zeta was earlier transliterated as s at the beginning of words and ss in the middle of words, as in sōna for ζώνη "belt" and trapessita for τραπεζίτης "banker".

In Vulgar Latin orthography, Z seems to have represented the affricate // which was the reflex of Classical /j/ or /dj/, e.g., zanuariu for ianuariu "January", ziaconus for diaconus "deacon", or oze for hodie "today".[3] Likewise, /di/ sometimes replaced /z/ in words like baptidiare for baptizare "to baptize". Eventually, it came to represent /ts/ or /dz/ instead, as gi came to be used for //, the sounds they still have in Italian today. In other languages like Spanish, further evolution of the sound occurred.

Early English[edit]

Early English used S alone for both the unvoiced and the voiced sibilant. The Latin sound imported through French was new and was not written with Z but with G or I. The successive changes can be well seen in the double forms from the same original, jealous and zealous. Both of these come from a late Latin zelosus, derived from the imported Greek ζῆλος zêlos. The earlier form is jealous; its initial sound is the [] which developed to Modern French [ʒ]. John Wycliffe wrote the word as gelows or ielous.

Z at the end of a word was pronounced ts, as in English assets, from Old French asez "enough" (Modern French assez), from Vulgar Latin ad satis ("to sufficiency").[4]

Last letter of the alphabet[edit]

In earlier times, the English alphabets used by children terminated not with Z but with & or related typographic symbols. [1] In her 1859 novel Adam Bede, George Eliot refers to Z being followed by & when her character Jacob Storey says, "He thought it [Z] had only been put to finish off th' alphabet like; though ampusand would ha' done as well, for what he could see."[5]

Some Latin based alphabets have extra letters, such as the Icelandic and Swedish making Ö the last one or Å in case of the Danish and Norwegian.

Variant and derived forms[edit]

A glyph variant of Z originating in the medieval Gothic minuscules and the Early Modern Blackletter typefaces is the "tailed z" (German geschwänztes Z, also Z mit Unterschlinge). In some Antiqua typefaces, this letter is present as a standalone letter or in ligatures. Combined with long s (ſ), it is the origin of the ß (Eszett) ligature in the German alphabet.

Z in an Antiqua typeface may be identical with the character representing 3 in other fonts.

A graphical variant of tailed Z is Ezh, as adopted into the International Phonetic Alphabet as the sign for the voiced postalveolar fricative. Tailed Z is to be distinguished from the similar insular G and yogh found in Old English, Irish, Middle English, etc.

Unicode assigns codepoints U+2128 black-letter capital z (HTML: ℨ) and U+1D537 𝔷 fraktur small z (HTML: 𝔷) in the Letterlike Symbols and Mathematical alphanumeric symbols ranges respectively.

Use in English[edit]

In modern English orthography the letter 'z' usually represents the sound /z/.

Z represents /ʒ/ in words like 'azure' or 'seizure'. More often, this sound appears as 'su' or 'si' in words such as 'measure', 'decision', etc. In all these words, /ʒ/ developed from earlier /zj/ by yod-coalescence.

Few words in the Basic English vocabulary begin with Z, though it occurs in words beginning with other letters. It is the most rarely used letter in written English.[6] It is more common in American English than in British English, as with the endings '-ize'/'-ise' and '-ization'/'-isation', where the American spelling is derived from Greek and the British from French. One native Germanic English word that contains 'z', 'freeze' (past 'froze', participle 'frozen') came to be spelled that way by convention, even though it could have been spelled with 's' (as with 'choose', 'chose', 'chosen').

Z is used in writing to represent the act of sleeping (sometimes as 'zzz' or 'zzzz'). It is used because closed-mouth human snoring often sounds like the pronunciation of the letter.[citation needed]

Use in other languages[edit]

Z stands for a voiced alveolar or voiced dental sibilant /z/, in Albanian, Breton, Czech, Dutch, French, Hungarian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Romanian, Slovak, and the International Phonetic Alphabet. It stands for /t͡s/ in Chinese pinyin, Danish, Finnish, and German. In Italian, it represents two phonemes, /t͡s/ and /d͡z/. Castilian Spanish uses the letter to represent /θ/ (as English 'th' in 'thing'), though in other dialects (Latin American, Andalusian) this sound has merged with /s/. In Portuguese, it stands for /z/ in most cases, but also for /s/ or /ʃ/ (depending on the regional variant) at the end of syllables.

The letter Z on its own represents /z/ in the Polish language. It is also used in four of the seven officially recognized digraphs: 'cz' (/t͡ʂ/), 'dz' (/d͡z/ or /t͡s/), 'rz' (/ʐ/ or /ʂ/, sometimes it represents a sequence /rz/) and 'sz' (/ʂ/); and is the most frequently used of the consonants in that language. (Other Slavic languages avoid digraphs and mark the corresponding phonemes with the háček (caron) accent: č, ď, ř, š; this system has its origin in Czech orthography of the Hussite period.) Two more Polish digraphs include Z with diacritical marks, as accent and dot: 'dź' (/d͡ʑ/ or /t͡ɕ/) and 'dż' (/d͡ʐ/ or /t͡ʂ/). Z can also appear alone with diacritical marks, namely ź or ż.

Among non-European languages that have adopted the Latin alphabet, 'z' usually stands for [z], such as in Azerbaijani, Igbo, Indonesian, Shona, Swahili, Tatar, Turkish, Turkmen, and Zulu.

In the Kunrei-shiki and Hepburn romanisations of Japanese, 'z' stands for a phoneme whose allophones include [z] and [dz].

Metalinguistic usage[edit]

In mathematics, U+2124 (double-struck capital z) is used to denote the set of integers.

Related letters and other similar characters[edit]

U+0396 Ζ greek capital letter zeta (HTML: Ζ Ζ), U+03B6 ζ greek small letter zeta (HTML: ζ ζ)

Computing codes[edit]

Character Z z
Unicode name LATIN CAPITAL LETTER Z   LATIN SMALL LETTER Z
Encodings decimal hex decimal hex
Unicode 90 U+005A 122 U+007A
UTF-8 90 5A 122 7A
Numeric character reference Z Z z z
EBCDIC family 233 E9 169 A9
ASCII 1 90 5A 122 7A
1 Also for encodings based on ASCII, including the DOS, Windows, ISO-8859 and Macintosh families of encodings.

Other representations[edit]

NATO phonetic Morse code
Zulu ––··
ICS Zulu.svg Semaphore Zulu.svg ⠵
Signal flag Flag semaphore Braille
dots-1356

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Z", Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition (1989); Merriam-Webster's Third New International Dictionary of the English Language, Unabridged (1993); "zee", op. cit.
  2. ^ One early use of "zee": Lye, Thomas (1969) [2nd ed., London, 1677]. A new spelling book, 1677. Menston, (Yorks.) Scolar P. p. 24. LCCN 70407159. "Zee Za-cha-ry, Zion, zeal" 
  3. ^ Ti Alkire & Carol Rosen, Romance Languages: A Historical Introduction (Cambrdge: Cambridge UP, 2010), 61.
  4. ^ "asset". Oxford English Dictionary (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. September 2005. 
  5. ^ George Eliot: Adam Bede. Chapter XXI. online at Project Gutenberg
  6. ^ English letter frequencies

External links[edit]


Aa Bb Cc Dd Ee Ff Gg Hh Ii Jj Kk Ll Mm Nn Oo Pp Qq Rr Ss Tt Uu Vv Ww Xx Yy Zz
Letter Z with diacritics
Źź Ẑẑ Žž Żż Ẓẓ Ẕẕ Ƶƶ Ȥȥ Ⱬⱬ ʐ ʑ ɀ
Related